IK Multimedia’s new UNO Synth is an impressive achievement for a portable monosynth, packing the traditional analog architecture of two oscillators, noise generator, multimode filter, dual ADSR envelopes, and an LFO into the form factor of a hardcover book. In addition to these synthesis amenities, it has an integrated sequencer/arpeggiator, basic delay, and a few innovative performance controls that let you add bends or introduce modulation on the fly via a simple membrane touch keyboard.
The front panel’s interface includes a dedicated cutoff knob and four multi-use knobs for adjusting other essential synthesis functions, but there’s a much wider range of parameters accessible via MIDI, which may not be obvious to new or casual users. Fortunately, IK Multimedia’s new software editor offers control of these deeper tools and is available as a Mac or Windows standalone app, iOS app, or VST plug-in. Best of all, it’s a free download for registered users.
If you’re an UNO Synth owner, the app is a must-have as it reveals just how powerful this compact instrument really is. For example, each oscillator displays its continuously variable waveform, which smoothly transitions from triangle to sawtooth to square to pulse in a manner similar to the latest Moog and Dave Smith Instruments synths and can also be switched to PWM mode. What’s more, there are independent LFO and (filter) envelope modulation depths for modulating the shape of each oscillator, which greatly enhances the animation options for leads and basses.
The mixer section now includes dedicated on/off switches for each source, in addition to the original UNO Synth's level controls, making it easy to isolate the individual tone generators as you work.
In my original review for the hardware, I commented on the hardware’s omission of filter keyboard tracking — essential for tuned resonant noise effects. While it was always available via MIDI, in the editor it’s easy to set up much more precisely.
As for the envelopes, the onboard knobs only offer access to attack/decay for the filter and attack/release for the amplifier, which is fine for most live applications and quick edits. With the apps, it’s possible to view and adjust all ADSR elements at glance. It’s also nice to see which LFO waveform is selected and toggle the tempo sync switch.
The UNO Synth’s unique performance switches are now easily configurable, so you can fine-tune the depth of the pitch div e and scoop options, as well as set the modulation amounts for the LFO applied to pitch, cutoff , and amp (called vibrato, wah, and tremolo respectively on the hardware). Additionally, you can tailor velocity sensitivity and mod wheel depth for these parameters, which wasn’t relevant to the membrane interface but is extremely handy when controlling the unit via its VST within your DAW.
All three software tools let you load and save presets directly from the app or VST, so these customizations don’t get lost. Additionally, you can name your presets and store them on your computing platform or directly into one of the unit’s 100 memory locations, without names.
While I was certainly impressed with the functionality of the hardware as a standalone product, in conjunction with the software, the UNO Synth really comes into its own as a much more powerful instrument than the front panel implies. For prospective buyers, this revelation may tip the scales in determining their purchase. For existing users, it’s a wonderful bonus for this excellent portable monosynth.
Francis Preve is a journalist, sound designer, and college professor. Find out more at francispreve.com
Full access to deeper parameters like ADSRs, filter keyboard tracking, and oscillator waveform modulation. Detailed tailoring of performance control, including velocity and mod wheel. Patches can be named and saved to hardware and/or computing platform.
Using the iOS app requires Apple’s Lightning-to-USB camera adapter or suitable hardware MIDI interface. Dark interface could be improved with a tad more contrast or a “light” mode.